What Makes Kona Coffee the Best in the World?

Across the globe, 100% Kona Coffee is renowned for its superior quality and flavor, and we are proud to serve our guests the 100% Kona Coffee grown here on Holualoa Inn Estate. Connoisseurs and casual drinkers alike agree that it is hard to enjoy any other coffee once you have tried 100% Kona. But what is it exactly about Hawaii Island’s west side that creates such a delicious brew, and how do Kona’s coffee farmers go about producing the world’s best coffee?

Kona: The Ideal Coffee Climate

Coffee plants are hardy, but they grow best in tropical climates with bright sun, ample cloud cover, and regular (but not torrential) rain. Across the Kona coffee belt, morning sun, afternoon clouds, and mild daily showers create the perfect growing conditions for coffee, and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa protect the trees from Big Island’s trade winds.

The ideal elevation for coffee propagation is 500-2,300 feet above sea level. Located at the sweet spot elevation of 1,400 feet on the rich slopes of Mount Hualalai, Holualoa Inn Estate features rocky, volcanic soil that provides our coffee crop with essential nutrients and facilitates drainage. To ensure optimal growth, we plant our coffee trees along the natural contours of the land in the Old-Kona fashion beneath the sprawling canopies of our avocado and mango trees, which provide additional shade.

Processing Kona Coffee

Kona’s climate may be ideal for growing coffee, but the harvesting and roasting process can make or break the quality of the final brew. Most forms of coffee processing involve fermentation, drying, and roasting. We ferment our beans in water-filled fermentation tanks, air-drying and hulling the beans before roasting and air-cooling. For quality control, we hand-pick and process only the ripest cherries, roasting the fermented beans in small batches and reviewing for imperfections prior to bagging.

The Origins of Kona Coffee

Though the coffee plant thrives in the rich volcanic soil of the Kona coffee belt, coffee is not native to Hawaii. Coffee was initially propagated in Hawaii as an ornamental. The first commercial coffee grown in Hawaii was imported from Brazil, but it is an Arabica variety first imported from Guatemala in 1892 that comprises the majority of Kona coffee today.

Though coffee growing was once a large plantation industry, the 1899 crash of the international coffee market compelled large growers to lease their plantation land to families. These family-owned operations prevailed, and a great deal of Kona coffee is still grown on small farms like ours.

Looking to Buy Kona Coffee?

Hawaiia is, at present, the only large coffee producer in the United States. As such, it is essentially an inherently fair-trade product, for coffee pickers in Hawaii, unlike their counterparts in other regions of the world, are paid US wages. Though several small farms, including Holualoa Inn Estate, sell coffee produced exclusively on their respective properties, many instead sell their coffee to larger companies that source coffee throughout the Kona belt. Thus, purchasing any 100% Kona coffee is an excellent way to support small, American-owned businesses in Hawaii.

If you are looking to support small farms, it is critical to pay attention to the label. Hawaii State law permits companies to market coffee as a “Kona blend” so long as it contains at least 10% Kona coffee. The law allows companies to use the Kona label for low-quality, high-profit coffee that competes with small farmers producing pure, 100% Kona Coffee. Support small businesses and opt for maximum quality by always choosing 100% Kona.